A year into its expensive investment into live video, Facebook is adding an audio option. The company said today that the feature, which is first being made available to publishers, is designed to complement video streams with a lower-bandwidth option. Initial partners include Britain’s LBC radio, the BBC World Service, Harper Collins, and authors Adam Grant and Britt Bennett. It will be made available to everyone next year, Facebook said.
Listening to live streams on iOS will require that you have Facebook open on your mobile device the entire time, Facebook said — a feature that seems likely to limit engagement among listeners. Android users can close the app and continue to listen.
Facebook Live Audio feels like a relatively minor component of Facebook’s suite of tools for media companies. But publishers would still likely rush to embrace it if audio streams performed well in the News Feed.
I’m personally curious to see how it complements the most notable use of the platform that we’ve seen since launch: live broadcasting as a global distress signal. Live audio of police confrontations might be less conspicuous, and thus easier, to broadcast than video streams. We’ll see.